Lisa Trever’s “Image Encounters” wins Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize

UT Press is pleased to announce that Image Encounters: Moche Murals and Archaeo Art History by Lisa Trever has been awarded the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize for the best book on the decorative arts, design history, or material culture of the Americas, given by the Bard Graduate Center.

The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize rewards scholarly excellence and commitment to cross-disciplinary conversation in books about decorative arts, design history, or material culture of the Americas.

In making the award, the members of the selection committee for the Horowitz Book Prize wrote, “Coastal Moche culture is familiar to many through remarkable representational ceramic stirrup bottles. But Moche mural art is scarcely known, in part owing to its extreme fragility that has often led to losses soon after archaeological discovery. The committee especially commends Trever for drawing readers’ attention to this remarkable body of material using a transdisciplinary method, combining the procedures of archaeology with those of art history, notably iconology. The result is a fascinating insight into aspects of Moche ritual and social culture as it developed over centuries at temple sites.”

Moche murals of northern Peru represent one of the great, yet still largely unknown, artistic traditions of the ancient Americas. Created in an era without written scripts, these murals are key to understandings of Moche history, society, and culture. In this first comprehensive study on the subject, Lisa Trever develops an interdisciplinary methodology of “archaeo art history” to examine how ancient histories of art can be written without texts, boldly inverting the typical relationship of art to archaeology.

Trever argues that early coastal artistic traditions cannot be reduced uncritically to interpretations based in much later Inca histories of the Andean highlands. Instead, the author seeks the origins of Moche mural art, and its emphasis on figuration, in the deep past of the Pacific coast of South America. Image Encounters shows how formal transformations in Moche mural art, before and after the seventh century, were part of broader changes to the work that images were made to perform at Huacas de Moche, El Brujo, Pañamarca, and elsewhere in an increasingly complex social and political world. In doing so, this book reveals alternative evidentiary foundations for histories of art and visual experience.

Lisa Trever is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Associate Professor in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology at Columbia University. She is the author of The Archaeology of Mural Painting at Pañamarca, Peru, and co-editor of El arte antes de la historia: Para una historia del arte andino antiguo. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field, Bard Graduate Center will host an event with Trever on the subject of the book in spring 2024.